Auction 92 Part 2 Rare and Important Manuscripts and Items of the Gross Family Collection

Parchment Certificate – Appointment of an Emissary to Yemen – Signed by the Leaders of the Yemenite Community – Jerusalem, 1894

Opening: $1,000
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sold for: $2,000
Including buyer's premium

Manuscript certificate, emissary letter for R. Shalom Hamdi Levi, who was sent to Yemen to raise funds on behalf of the Yemenite community in Jerusalem. Signed by 12 leaders and rabbis of the community, including R. Yichye Tzarum, R. Shalom Yosef Iraqi, R. Yosef Masoud, R. Saadia Tzefirah (author of Kesef Tzaruf) and his son the kabbalist R. Yosef Tzefirah. Jerusalem, [1894].
Parchment leaf; neat scribal script with calligraphic ornaments. Signatures and stamps. At the top of the certificate, poem forming the acrostic "Jerusalem". In the upper left corner, the date, "Sunday 26th Adar I 1894", followed by graphically arranged verses.
The certificate describes the tribulations of the destitute members of the community, and the high cost of living in Jerusalem. The signatories authorize the appointment of R. Shalom Hamdi Levi as emissary of Jerusalem to Yemen, and confirm that his appointment was approved by the heads of the Kollelim in Jerusalem.
The signatories, rabbis and leaders of the Yemenite community in Jerusalem: R. Yichye son of R. Yosef Tzarum (1843-1917; head of the Yemenite Beit Din and leader of the Yemenite community in Jerusalem); R. Shalom Yosef Iraqi (1842-1917; head of the Yemenite Beit Din together with R. Yichye Tzarum); R. Yehuda son of R. Yichye Efraim; R. Saadia son of R. Yosef Madmuni (president of the Hafid community, one of the first immigrants in 1881, father of R. Yosef Madmuni mukhtar of Silwan); R. Saadia son of R. Yosef Tzefirah (author of Kesef Tzaruf); R. Avraham son of R. Saadia Shab; R. Yosef son of R. Suleiman Masoud (b. 1832, dayan in Sanaa, travelled to Constantinople on behalf the community in 1875 – this mission led to the 1881-1882 Yemenite immigration to Jerusalem. R. Yosef headed the second wave of immigrants, who reached Jerusalem in summer 1881, before the great immigration of Nissan 1882). Additional signature, faded and difficult to decipher: "Amar son of Yichye…".
The certificate is also signed by R. Salam son of R. Yichye a-Hamdi (presumably the uncle of the emissary R. Shalom son of R. Shlomo son of R. Yichye Hamdi Levi); R. Aharon son of R. Aharon Hoter (b. 1852 in Sanaa, immigrated to Jerusalem in 1882); R. Aharon son of R. Shalom Damti. This is followed by a pledge to pray by the Western Wall on behalf of the donors, signed by the kabbalist R. Yosef son of R. Sa'id Tzefirah (R. Yosef Tzefirah of Tanam, a kabbalist in the Beit El yeshiva, immigrated to Jerusalem in 1890, where he published the books of his elderly father, author of Kesef Tzaruf). Stamp of R. Yosef Nadaf (who accompanied R. Shalom Hamdi on his first mission to Yemen in 1883; see below), and two additional stamps (deleted).
This is an early document, from the beginning of the establishment of the Yemenite community's Torah and charity institutions in Jerusalem. The Yemenite immigration to Jerusalem, which began in 1881-1882 (E'eleh BeTamar), was fraught with many difficulties, with the immigrants barely eking out a living from manual labor and the funds remaining from the Chalukah of the Sephardi Kollelot. Only in 1892-1894 did the Yemenite immigrants begin organizing themselves as an independent group, establishing a yeshiva and boys' school for the children of their community, and the Tehillah LeDavid society for prayer at the Western Wall (see: Kedem Auction 74, item 241). An independent Kollel for the Yemenite community was first established in 1909, and it received financial support from Yemen until WWI. After the war, the tables turned, and the Yemenite immigrants in Eretz Israel, who had become more financially established, came to the rescue of their brethren in Yemen, whose situation deteriorated under Imam Yahya (Tobi, E'eleh BeTamar, p. 31).
The first journey of emissaries from the Yemenite community in Jerusalem to their brethren in Yemen took place in 1883, when R. Shalom Hamdi and R. Yosef Nadaf were sent to Yemen (by the Sephardi Kollelot, who held exclusive authority over sending emissaries to various countries; regarding this mission, see: A. Yaari, Shluchei Eretz Israel, pp. 752-753). The mission was not successful, due to a lack of coordination with the leaders of the community in Yemen, and after two years, in 1885, they returned to Jerusalem empty-handed. The failure of the mission was so acute that they didn't even have enough money to pay for their return trip. Their request from the gabba'im of the Eretz Israel funds in Yemen to sponsor their trip back to Eretz Israel was refused, since they did not have an explicit authorization from the rabbis in Jerusalem (see: Tobi, Korot UMaasim, 1973-1975, p. 25). In 1887, R. Shalom Hamdi was sent on another trip to Yemen (Tobi, ibid. pp. 28-29).
To the best of our knowledge, the present certificate is the only source documenting the mission of R. Shalom Hamdi in 1894.

[1] parchment leaf. Approx. 38 cm. Good-fair condition. Stains. Faded ink and some erased characters.

Provenance: The Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv, 057.012.003.

Emissary Letters